Each week, during college football season DPB’s Kyle Magin and Andrew J. Pridgen pour on the prose with Pints and Picks™. Who to wager and…a whole lot of references that take three reads to get—if only it were worth reading three times (like total. Like three total reads.)
Since we’ve got another dog of a weekend, matchup-wise, can we talk about the University of Miami for a second? How insane is it that the once kings of college football–the program of McGahee, Shockey, Gore, Dorsey, Irvin and Johnson–is smoldering in front of less than 30,000 people a half hour away from campus on a weekly basis?
Watching Clemson blast them into orbit at home 58-0 last week was one thing, seeing them fire coach Al Golden was another, but right now I’m wondering how many kids know Miami was, you know, The U, and not just some other second-rate sometimes-relevant urban school in the cut of Washington, Northwestern, BC, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Houston, Minnesota, SMU, SDSU, etc. Maybe the 20 years between Schnellenberger and Coker were the exception to a rule and not the overall trend line of how things are destined to go in Coral Gables. It’s a small school with an off-campus, cavernous NFL stadium in the most competitive recruiting environment in America. It’s weird to say for those of us who remember the glory days.
Speaking of urban football–the province of the NFL, whereas college’s spiritual home is in isolated cities between Cities and high school football thrives in rural America–ESPN’s Gameday is headed to Philly this weekend for Notre Dame-Temple. It’s novel to see competitive college football in another major city besides LA–I always enjoy the Emerald Nuts Bowl at AT&T in San Francisco and the Pinstripe Bowl in Yankee Stadium for that very reason (it’s damn sure not the football).
Here are the top 5 cities and stadiums I’d like to see college football in:
The B1G really screwed the pooch by electing to host its football title game in sterile-ass Lucas Oil Stadium in sterile-ass Indianapolis. By hosting it at Soldier Field, the B1G could have milked the football-in-the-snow visuals from an annual ice bowl in the Windy City, one of the finest cities in America. So much of college football is played on warm or lukewarm dry days that a showdown in frigid temperatures or snow makes for a more interesting game. How do those 170 lb wide receivers fare over the middle when the middle is chewed-up tundra? How does a fullback do when he’s featured in the offense for the first time all season? Football is better in terrible conditions.
Wish granted! We’ll see ND-BC later this season at Fenway. I don’t have some overriding reason to want to see college football in Boston other than to hopefully see someone throw a pass away into the Sox dugout or the Green Monster (though that would have to be one hell of a pass).
Los Angeles/Dodger Stadium
LA is probably the only major metro in America right now hosting good college football on the reg and doing it in style. UCLA plays its home games at the Rose Bowl–perhaps the finest stadium in the sport–and USC calls the Coliseum home, the same place where Olympians have performed in two of the finest games in modern history. Dodger Stadium stands above both venues for history and architectural beauty, if not setting in comparison to Pasadena. A daytime throwdown there would bring out the stars and make for great visuals.
Houston/Minute Maid Field
There aren’t many stadiums you’d get romantic about in urban settings in the South. Turner Field sits in the middle of a parking lot. Nissan Stadium in Nashville has all the architectural beauty of a pork rind warehouse. Jerry World was apparently designed by someone who thinks a Hummer puts the b in subtle. Minute Maid has a bit of an edge to it. It went through the Enron crash when it lost its name, the rust on the roof and the removal of Tal’s Hill. It’s got the character of a roustabout who saw his ship come in on a platform during the days of $100/barrel oil, had his truck repossessed during the days of $40/barrel oil and just landed a steady job at Halliburton for who knows how long? Minute Maid enjoys the ride, and I think a couple football teams would do the same under its rusty dome.
Mexico City/Estadio Azteca
Azteca is Mexico’s premier stadium and probably one of the most legendary pitches in the sport of soccer–the Mexican National Team is nearly unbeatable inside its unfriendly confines. It’s the most exotic place the NFL has ever hosted a game–a stadium at 6,800-plus feet in 70 degree weather. What better place to introduce the 120 million-plus south of the border to America’s most passionate version of its most passionate sport?
Alright, AJ, over to you…
Wow. Thanks for kicking it off with a pair of prescient topics. My lede was going to be something like: Oregon’s bye week helped them continue their Vegas bowl trajectory and sorry for throwing my first oh-fer week with a Mtn West lock that wasn’t meant to be and a Hilltoppers squad that came a point shy of covering….And that’s without even getting into the shock-and-awe greeting the Mets’ un-thawed bats got games one and two at Kauffman.
So, yeah. Thanks yet again for pulling me out of the blah-matchup malaise before I even got to get started. For the record though, I think you said college football gets interesting again this week, last week. Waiting, waiting, waiting.
Now to your topics:
- The U: My VIP (<–Vanilla Ice Posse), flat-billed (yes, we started it, or at least the Spur Posse did)-and-bangs Starter-hat wearing self has memories fond of Luther Campbell trolling the sidelines and the party never stopping in Miami. THE U was THE template for a concept we’ve oft discussed: doing away with the NCAA altogether and creating a 16-team semi-pro football academy league of paid help who are free to pursue their education at the university of their choice—and make enough to do so, ten times over—as they groom for the NFL. The U in the day was something like that minus the being able to go pursue an education somewhere. I kid. That said, Dade County is Loserville/tramp stamp ground zero and its crime beat reads something like a Wikipedia entry entitled: “Everything wrong with this country…in pictures” but in its prime The U rose above that and then some. It was the original cookie-cutter for the program (and indeed the seminal James Caan/Halle Berry vehicle The Program was based on The U circa 1982-1993) and the ringmaster was carnival barker Howard Schnellenberger who started coaching the ‘Canes in 1979. Schnellenberger took Miami from small private-school obscurity east of the Everglades, added a little stripper glitter and made magic. Just goes to show, it’s all about the coach (Jimmy Johnson), a dash of marketing and orange and green. Will Sebastian the Ibis e’er fly again? That’s a question along the lines of whether the Biebs will ever become a full-bird adult. And the answer I have is this: It’s easy to root against someone so obnoxious when they’re on top. But then you kind of miss it when they’re down.
- Alternate (namely, baseball) stadia as a one-game home field for a major college tilt: Agree 100 on this, especially on Chavez: As grand as it is to tailgate on an actual golf course…creating an actual justifiable use-case for a golf course is at the Rose Bowl, last Thursday’s Cal-UCLA game was one of the more important Pac-12 North/South matchups of the season; not to mention a combine-worthy showcase for NFL future star QBs Jared Goff and Josh Rosen—and less than two-thirds full. Pity. Then again, if you’re sequestered in Westwood, that $120 Uber ride to the stadium = four legit dates at the Napa Valley Grille. So, there you go. Chavez is at least fewer than 20 zip codes from Westwood.
But I’m taking a slightly different tack Kyle: Abandoned (but not yet razed) stadia I’d like to see college football (or any sport …or Motley Crüe/re-united GNR/Metallica day on the green-type show for that matter) light up one more time.
- The Cow Palace: I saw Nirvana here in 1993. I saw the Sharks play a few of their opening campaign here. I went to a couple model train shows here with my pops. And yes, I saw the Crüe there during their Generation Swine tour (‘98ish. Tommy Lee dedicated Home Sweet Home to Pammy—sweet). The Cow Palace is a giant spare and forgotten in warehouse today’s San Francisco. Like nobody would deign occupy such a sparse and wi-fi unfriendly and easy-to-park at venue. Why do that when you have Superman’s crystal lair in the South Bay and the for-no-reason-whatsoever brick waterfront monument to a franchise in full built on an old industrial dump in China Basin? The Warriors won their championship in 1975 at the Cow Palace (even though they were already playing in Oakland. Little-known fact, the NBA finals got bounced for the Ice Capades …if that tells you where America’s sporting mind was 40 years ago) and the USF Dons called the arena home on occasion during the halcyon Bill Russell days. It’s cavernous inside and there’s more than plenty of room for a full field with that scary away gym from Hoosiers feel. Frenzied crowds stacked to the ceiling. Book it.
- The Astrodome: Maybe this is just an excuse for me to link back to my Astrodome 50th anniversary piece, but WHEN IS someone going to rediscover this monolithic crash-landed UFO 8th Wonder of the World classic and start packing it once more. Fact: There’s no such thing as a bad seat in the Astrodome because there’s no such thing as a good seat. Roll out the old-school knee-busting/career-ending Astroturf…and please try not to spill your drink on it or grandma will be pissed—just in time for the undefeated Houston Cougs to show whose house it is.
- Kezar: Another SF gem. The original home of the 49ers and the place where you go run around if you want to see hot marketing girls who are doing their interval workout for their first Nike Women’s full. Kezar should have never NOT been the home of the 49ers. There was room for 5,000 which is probably about 3k more than they’d draw in Santa Clara if everyone wasn’t hamstrung by PSLs. There’s an encouraging intersection of all of SF’s dysfunctional mass transit and Kezar Pub is less than a stumble away. Plus. Ready? Rooftops!!! When’s the last/next time a city as morally bankrupt and on-paper rich as SF going to be able to provide a rooftop-viewing experience to the three remaining multi-generational families who haven’t been squeezed out by Airbnb? Never.
OK KM, I got a couple on the other side including Boise State/UNLV and Minnesota/Michigan…and why the Mets can still win in 6.
I once watched my cousin’s Texas 5A high school football team play in the Astrodome. Texas 5A football is essentially the Sun Belt’s B-league, so I can tell you with confidence that it would be a highly entertaining place to watch college football players throw down while wearing those gigantic pre-field turf, dome-era elbow pads that covered everything from the lower shoulder to wrist. It’s no coincidence that Astroturf coincided with college football’s sartorial nadir–stomach-exposing jerseys, neckrolls on EVERYONE and high-tops–it was the equivalent of playing on spray-painted concrete.
AJ, last time I was in Philly was the summer of 2003. It was just before the Linc opened and my family took our last big baseball trip before I went off to college. We saw the Phillies play in the Vet, which even to my breathtakingly sheltered self seemed a good place to step on a used needle or a meet a guy named Sully who had a tip on a horse. We saw someone who was probably strung out on our candlelight tour of Revolution-era Philly and our guide seemed to be ready to dropkick someone should the situation have warranted it. I set the scene a little because it seems an odd place for ND to showcase itself.
The ND football of our times is a slick, corporate entity. That date at Fenway appears to make sense because tickets are going for $600 a pop and the Red Sox can guarantee everyone a urine-free experience since they own the neighborhood surrounding the stadium. Having ND roll up to a Philly or Detroit or Baltimore feels a little weird for everybody, like a Wall Street guy walking into your local rotisserie or record store. Whatever. The City of Brotherly Love rolled out the red carpet for the Pope this summer, so I’m taking…
ND -11 @ Temple
Despite the strangeness of the surroundings, I expect the 6-1 Irish to kick the living shit out of the 7-0 Owls largely because Temple has made it nearly ¾ of a season without playing anybody. Notre Dame doesn’t have the type of defense one simply adjusts for. Despite not have really impressive takeaway numbers, opponents average just 6.6 yards per pass against the Irish and convert merely 29 percent of their third-down conversions. The noose tightens the more opponents struggle, too–ND has given up just 20 third quarter and 38 fourth quarter points this season while scoring 65 and 75, respectively. If you don’t have the horses to hang with the Irish through the half, your chances of catching them down the stretch are nearly nonexistent. The Irish are 6-1 ATS and have rattled off five straight covers coming into the showdown. Make it 6.
Florida vs Georgia Under 46.5 (Jacksonville)
AJ, do you feel that? It’s the quiver I get before an obvious, heart-stopping 10-7 affair in the southeast. 5-2 Georgia has scored 10 points or less in 2 of its last 3 SEC matchups. 6-1 Florida has given up less than 10 in three of its last 5 games and is coming off of its first loss of the season and a bye week. Florida sophomore QB Treon Harris still hasn’t been asked to really do anything since replacing injured starter Will Grier and I fully expect that trend to continue this week if the Gators can stymie a pretty awful Bulldog offensive attack (the Dogs convert just ⅓ of their third downs this season and score in the red zone just half the time, two lines which are trending downwards.) Drink heavily at the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party if you plan to attend.
SC @ Cal +5.5
AJ, you and I both texted in amusement/disbelief as the 4-3 Trojans rolled up the 6-1 Utes last weekend in a matchup Vegas predicted accurately, if even overly conservatively. It felt like classic SC, ‘sure, we might have crumbled in back-to-back weeks, but we’re not rolling over for the Mos/hillbillies/our recruiting rejects from up the 15.’ 5-2 Cal, on the other hand, is looking shaky after two straight losses to the PAC 12’s other big guns in Utah and UCLA. But, the Bears are back in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, where they’ve gone 3-0 this season and 2-1 against the spread. A day game under Tightwad Hill is exactly the sort of thing that will throw SC off its game. The Trojans haven’t had the focus to follow a win with a win since September 12 and are coming off their biggest W of the season after a frustrating loss in prime time to Notre Dame. To be expect them to be amped up for a minor rivalry in a bucolic setting is a fool’s bet. Look for Cal QB Jared Goff to take advantage of their impatience and slice SC over the middle.
Alright AJ, bring us home…
Whooo-weee did you see that Oregon/ASU game-that-nobody-seemed-to-want-to-win? Scott Frost, Oregon’s offensive coordinator who is currently trying to get people to endorse him on LinkedIn for SEO and DemandGen decided to run the Wildcat for the two-point conversion in triple-OT in exchange for a free Coors Heavy pitcher at the nearby Coach House courtesy the local SAE chapter. ASU had other plans as quarterback Tillman decided to throw to receiver Tillman who wasn’t looking yet five yards deep in the endzone—and the game ended before midnight.
Had I known they were going all Tillman-riffic Thursday in Tempe, I would have called the game in the Ducks’ favor well before kick-off. Might I suggest, kind readers, a quick brush up on Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory, a pretty great and gritty breakdown of Pat Tillman (who he —as much as we can postulate—was, not who the NFL/NCAA marketing wants him to be). Tillman was a complex guy who had a pretty easy/care-free life growing up in the Bay Area and doing the right things to succeed on the field and off yadda yadda. But somewhere in there a complex and thoughtful man grew up from that. Through his journals and letters along with interviews with his wife, friends and soldiers who served with him, the reader finds that it wasn’t black and white or about leaving millions on the table with the NFL to go become some kind of national figure. It was just the continuation of a narrative that he had about trying to do what he felt was right at the time. And this all came in spite of inner-turmoil and personal conflicts with the fight that he was taking up as well.
So, yeah, we live in this “look at me” soundbite world that endlessly endeavors to distill complex people into this little caricature that may or may not have anything to do with the actual life or the way they lived it. So, that’s why I got a little sad when I see a stadium full of drunk Arizona assholes with Tillman on their backs. To me, his likeness, much less his name, shouldn’t be invoked unless, you know, you’re either related to him or at least know who the fuck it is you’re talking about. That pick in the end zone for the Ducks was probably the most divinely intervened thing (Michigan State/Michigan notwithstanding) that I’ve seen in football this year.
Now, the games:
UNLV +20 vs. Boise State
UNLV is the 2014 Houston Astros—rebuilding, rebranding and on the cusp of something good. Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium they’re given the gift of quarterback Blake Decker back. Decker has been out the last three weeks with a dislocated shoulder and that, in every Frostian way, has made all the difference. UNLV (2-5, 1-2) faces a not-quite formidable Broncos (6-2, 3-1 Mountain West) squad who also happen to be lacking much of anything notable in the DB realm. UNLV’s last win was a signature in-state bragging rights victory against UNR on Oct. 3 but the Rebs have stumbled since then losing to a still underrated San Jose State and then limping off against Fresno State. The Rebs’ offseason overhaul to create a professional-grade college football program congruous with the NHL dropping a puck in the city of 250,000 razor-scratched hotel tables in 2017 is still a year or two away, but DE Sonny Sanitoa will anchor a line who has proven formidable with the pass rush and not so much against the run so look for the only thing to slow Broncos’ Mr. All-purpose-everying RB Jeremy McNichols are the types of things (or people) that get delivered to your room past three a.m. in Vegas. I think the Broncs get back on the Southwest charter at McCarran with most of their pride intact, along with a W. But I’ve got a sneaking feeling there’s no such thing as easy money in LV, especially if it’s a double-digit dog at home.
Michigan -15 at Minnesota
It’s all about the ground game for the Wolverines. When they win, they rush for about 200 yards-plus. When they lose, it’s fewer than 70. Thus far Utah and Michigan State and their NFL-ready D lines have (barely) had Harbaugh’s khakis in a bunch. The Gophers are OK up front but not great (top 50ish in the nation) and home-field advantage doesn’t seem to do much for Minnesota (losses to TCU and Nebraska at Michigan has split its two road games this season at TCF Bank Stadium (<–most uninspiring college stadia name ever). Michigan has been OK on the road, losing a close one at Utah in the opener smothering Maryland in their own Under Armour. And Minnesota did an OK job tamping down TCU’s tempo week one, but that’s been about it for hallmark near-victories. As much as Minnesota has enjoyed having the Little Brown Jug for the past year,only twice in history have the gophers had it for a pair of years and the last time was during the Kennedy administration. More than not having history on their side, the Gophers have lost 20 players including 11 starters this year with an even 10 out or questionable for Saturday. Wolverines should roll.
Mets in 6: Not sure if anyone knows this but Sandy Alderson (Mets GM and the real Moneyball guy) knows what to do with no money in the
post-Mr. Met Madoff era. Look for the young-uns to sweep at home and take the first one back in KC.
Overall: 15 for 28
ND -11 @ Temple
Florida vs Georgia Under 46.5 (Jacksonville)
Indiana @ Michigan State Under 62
SC @ Cal +5.5
Overall: 13 for 20 (one tie)
UNLV +20 vs. Boise State
Michigan -15 at Minnesota
Mets in 6 (double-down)